Madelyn Scott was one of the few students from the Landscape Architecture program left inside the studio as the Sept. 1 tornado wreaked havoc on Temple Univesity’s Ambler campus.
“I was alone in the studio and I got the warning,” said Scott, a junior landscape architecture major. “Thirty seconds later the tornado hit and I was surrounded by tree limbs flying everywhere.”
Immediately after, Scott navigated her way through fallen trees and debris to find other people. While she was grateful no one died, she mourns the loss of the historic biodiversity the campus is known for, she said.
On Sept. 1, Temple’s Ambler campus was hit by a tornado caused by Hurricane Ida, The Temple News reported. It touched down on the Ambler Arboretum, causing significant damage to buildings, botanical gardens and greenhouses. The campus was forced to return to remote learning for two weeks and partially reopened for in-person instruction on Sept. 15, utilizing only two buildings, Dixon Hall and the Learning Center.
Many students and faculty returned to campus feeling devastated about the damage that Ambler had endured.
The tornado blew off the roof of Temple Ambler’s West Hall, damaged the Ambler Learning Center and blew over trees on campus, The Temple News reported.
The tornado ranked a two on the Enhanced Fujita scale, a scale used to measure the intensity of tornadoes, Philly Voice reported.
E-F2 tornadoes can have wind speeds ranging from 111 to 135 miles per hour and have enough intensity to rip roofs off buildings, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
When Kathleen Salisbury, director of the Ambler Arboretum, saw the damage, she burst into tears, she said.
“I’ve been crying almost every day since,” Salisbury said. “It’s heartbreaking. The buildings can be fixed. Trees can’t.”
More than 175 trees were either damaged or removed from the Arboretum, Salisbury said. Some of which had been on campus for hundreds of years.
Jasmine Henne, was devastated when she walked onto Ambler’s campus for the first time after the tornado hit because she has formed many memories while studying and learning in the garden over the years.
“I felt an immense feeling of grief,” said Henne, a junior landscape architecture major. “I had memories flooding in of ‘Oh, that’s where I sat with my family and showed them all the trees I had learned, where my class walked through and my favorite garden that is not necessarily going to be there anymore. It was heartbreaking.”
Still, students and faculty have found glimmers of hope by honoring and memorializing the trees they lost.
Lamba Baldev, Henne’s studio landscape architecture professor, held a small memorial service for the trees that were lost to the tornado, Henne said. The students and faculty left flowers at the base of a 60 year old tree that survived the damage.
Students and faculty are also helping to restore the environment by continuing to plant trees for future generations and the community to enjoy, Henne said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Henne and Salisbury recognized the role Ambler’s campus serves in providing an escape from the outside world for the surrounding community as well as students and faculty.
“We are a place where people come to get away from the things that are troubling them,” Salisbury said. “And our whole community, not just the Arboretum, not just the campus, but the entire town around us, was devastated by this tornado. And we couldn’t be that place for them because we were also devastated.”
Students and faculty are also helping to restore the environment by continuing to plant trees for future generations and the community to enjoy.
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